Robot Image
The picking robot combines vision with RF sensing to find and grasps objects, even if they’re hidden from view. (Credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

MIT researchers developed RF-Grasp, a robot that uses radio waves to sense occluded objects. RF-Grasp uses both a camera and an RF reader to find and grab tagged objects, even when they’re fully blocked from the camera’s view. It consists of a robotic arm attached to a grasping hand. The robot is constantly collecting both RF tracking data and a visual picture of its surroundings.

The robot initiates the seek-and-pluck process by pinging the target object’s RF tag for a sense of its whereabouts. It uses RF to focus the attention of vision to navigate fine maneuvers. The sequence is akin to hearing a siren from behind, then turning to look and get a clearer picture of the siren’s source.

With its two complementary senses, RF Grasp zeroes in on the target object. As it gets closer and starts manipulating the item, vision – which provides much finer detail than RF – dominates the robot’s decision-making.